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Criminalisation of same-sex sexual activity in Sri Lanka breached rights of a LGBTI activist, UN women’s rights committee says

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GENEVA – Sri Lanka violated the rights of a lesbian and leading LGBTI activist who was subjected to discrimination, threats and abuses due to the country’s Penal Code that criminalises same-sex sexual activity, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has found.

In its decision published yesterday, CEDAW found that Sri Lanka has breached the rights of Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, the founder and Executive Director of Equal Ground, an organisation defending the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community in Sri Lanka.

Flamer-Caldera has been supporting lesbian and bisexual women in defending their rights after discovering in 1997 that the country’s Penal Code, which criminalises same-sex sexual activity, had been amended to include also sexual conduct between women. Since then, Flamer-Caldera has suffered high-profile attacks on her character, and she and her organisation have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, stigmatization and threats of violence by State officials and members of the public, including the press and social media.

In 2012 and 2013, the Women and Children’s Bureau of the Sri Lanka Police used Flamer-Caldera’s photo and her position with Equal Ground in presentations to assert that the rise of child abuse was mainly due to the “growing homosexual culture”. They claimed that she and her organisation were responsible for “spreading” homosexuality, implying that they were also responsible for “spreading” paedophilia.

Despite facing harassment and stigmatization, Flamer-Caldera did not complain to the police as she was worried she would be arrested. As a result of the amended Penal Code, she has been under constant risk of arrest, detention and investigation of her private life and has had to modify her behaviour.

Flamer-Caldera brought her case to the Committee and claimed that the criminalisation of female same-sex sexual activity and the concomitant potential for arrest and prosecution amount to discrimination on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation, violating her right to non-discrimination.

“Ms. Flamer-Caldera has been frequently threatened and harassed by the police, the media and the public, but she has been unable to report these abuses out of fear of being arrested,” said Committee member Hiroko Akizuki.

“The criminalisation of same-sex sexual activity has meant that the discrimination, violence and harassment on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community in Sri Lanka will continue with impunity,” she added.

CEDAW found that the Sri Lankan authorities have subjected Flamer-Caldera to gender-based discrimination and violence.

It found that the Sri Lankan authorities had not taken any legal or other measures to respect and protect Flamer-Caldera’s right to a life free from gender-based violence or to eliminate the prejudices to which she has been exposed as a woman, lesbian and activist.

It also found that the authorities have breached her right to access to justice to complain of the abuses and her right to non-discrimination concerning her family relations.

The Committee urged Sri Lanka to decriminalise same-sex sexual conduct. It also requested that the State take immediate and effective action to stop the threats, harassment and abuse, which Flamer-Caldera has been subjected to, and to take criminal procedures to hold those responsible to account. – ohchr.org



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Speaker proposes how to steer SL out of crisis

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has handed over a set of proposals to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, spelling out how to resolve country’s economic crisis.The proposals made by the Speaker pertain to a number of important sectors and highlight the importance of providing relief to low income groups.

The Speaker has said Sri Lankans working or doing business overseas or foreign investors depositing USD 100,000 with the Central Bank for a period of two years should be paid a 10% interest per annum in Sri Lankan rupees and allowed to credit the interest to any account preferred by the depositor. He also proposes that the government issue a vehicle import licence worth USD 25,000, six months after an individual makes a fixed deposit while also allowing him to pay a standard tax of USD 10,000 to the government for that vehicle.Speaker Abeywardena has proposed how to reduce energy costs, release adequate stocks of LP gas to the market, boost domestic production food production, stabilise the banking system.

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MR had not decided to resign on 09 May, says Weerasekra

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP MP Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera says Prime Minster Mahinda Rajapaksa had not decided to resign on 09 May 09 although the SLPP MPs had been asked to bring supporters to Temple Trees for a meeting.Weerasekera said so when The Island asked him why he had skipped the Temple Trees meeting.One-time Public Security Minister said that the then PM Rajapaksa had, during a conversation with him on 08 May had denied reports that the latter was planning to resign the following day. MP Namal Rajapaksa, however, had asked a group of MPs and others to bring supporters to express support for the PM, MP Weerasekera said.

Weerasekera said he had been among those contacted by MP Namal Rajapaksa.The former Navy Chief of Staff said that the failure on the part of law enforcement authorities and the military to respond swiftly and decisively to a threat of breach of law and order had led to a disaster at time global attention was on Sri Lanka due to the deteriorating financial situation.MP Weerasekera questioned why police had refrained from firing at least once into the air when mobs arrived at some MPs’ houses, which were destroyed. For over 48 hours mobs had ruled the country, the MP alleged, demanding an explanation why shoot-on-sight orders had not been issued as soon as mobs started to attack MPs’ houses.MP Weerasekera said that serious accusations made by SLPP members, particularly Wimal Weerawansa, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Mahindananda Aluthgamage couldn’t be ignored. They accused some sections of the SLPP of conspiring to unleash violence and the police and the armed forces turning a blind eye to countrywide retaliatory attacks.

Newly-appointed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles said that he would order a thorough probe into the May 09 incidents. Minister Alles said so when The Island asked him what he would do against the backdrop of allegations of the police facilitating attacks on protesting public in the Kollupitiya and Fort police areas.MPs, Weerawansa and Dr. Ramesh Pathirana alleged in Parliament that Maj. Gen. Jagath Alwis, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration and C. D. Wickremaratne, Inspector General of Police prevented Deshabandu Tennakoon, Senior DIG, Colombo from mob attacks on the protesting public.

Former Minister Weerasekera said that the government, the SLPP and the police should come clean on this matter. MP Weerasekera said that the government mishandled the challenge posed by those who cleverly exploited the economic crisis. “Perhaps one of the major blunders was allowing the public to block roads. Now, it has become a style. Interested parties also exploit the media and social media. The government seems clueless,” MP Weerasekera said, urging the government to review the developments.MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage, too, told The Island, the top SLPP leadership ignored repeated warnings. The former Agriculture Minister questioned whether those who had advised the Cabinet of Ministers chaired by the President deliberately deceived them.

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Lankan-born Cassandra elected to Australian Parliament

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She beat another candidate of Sri Lankan origin, Ranj Perera

Cassandra Fernando of Sri Lankan descent has been elected to the Australian Parliament.Cassandra, an advocate for essential workers and the Federal Labor Candidate for Holt.She migrated to Australia with her family when she was 11.She began working at Woolies Dandenong Plaza as a teenager. She now represents workers in the retail and fast food industries, fighting to improve their pay and conditions. She has also volunteered to tutor migrants and refugees from non-English speaking backgrounds so they can make the best of every opportunity.

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